Waynesboro team takes on state at Envirothon

May 20, 2003|by DON AINES

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Except for one rookie, it was a veteran squad from Waynesboro Area Senior High School that faced off against a panel of experts Monday in the Pennsylvania Envirothon.

Seniors Katy Hatfield, Andrew Gehman, Nathanael Fickett and Andrew Eshleman were on the school's Envirothon team that took the championship for Franklin and Fulton counties for the first time in 2002. They did it again this year with a new teammate, freshman Laura Rock.

Handed a hypothetical situation an hour earlier, they were in a classroom at Penn State Mont Alto presenting their proposal on the topic of agricultural land preservation. They had seven minutes to make their pitch and 13 to defend it against a panel of five judges with environmental backgrounds.


The novel proposal from the five students to preserve farmland was to encourage industrializing the fictional Mont Alto County.

"We're going to provide extensive zoning practices" to encourage industrialization in the county's urban area, Eshleman told the panel. Existing roads, sewer, water and other utilities would be improved, but not greatly expanded.

"Tax-wise, it's the smartest way to go because you make the most money off of industrial land," Hatfield said. The area to be used for industry has the poorest soils and isn't suited to agriculture, she said.

Agriculture security areas would be created to preserve dairy farms in the north and fruit growing areas to the south, Gehman said.

"With the addition of more industries, we'd up the amount of tax dollars coming in," Fickett said when asked about the expense of supporting industries with roads and utilities.

The questions got tougher and included issues that do not normally cloud the minds of high school students - stormwater run off, sewage treatment and industrial water usage, among others.

The competition was as much about thinking on one's feet as having all the answers.

"We're just environmental students who know reality," Fickett said of the team's plan to save the environment by planning managed growth.

"We told them the hard truth," Gehman said.

The Pennsylvania Envirothon brings together five-member teams from most of the state's 67 counties for a two-day competition. Today the teams will rotate from one field station to another and be tested on their knowledge of forestry, soils, wildlife, aquatics and farmland preservation, said Bill Kahler, a member of the state Envirothon Board.

The oral component the Waynesboro team and 49 others squads went through Monday is optional and does not figure in to the state championship, according to Karen Ely, another board member. That's judged as a separate competition at this level.

Hatfield said it is part of the international competition, however.

Last year, Waynesboro finished 26th out of 65 teams in Pennsylvania, said Kathy Seiler, a reading specialist and the team's adviser.

The state champions named today will go on to the Canon International Envirothon, which includes teams from across the U.S. and Canada, Kahler said.

A win here today wouldn't mean much of a road trip for Waynesboro. The international competition is being held in July at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md.

All five of the students have to work around track or other school activities to get together to study as a team for an hour or two a week.

Seiler noted Waynesboro had three teams compete at the county level and some schools send more.

"There are a lot of districts that actually mold their ecology classes around these standards," she said of the Envirothon.

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